After having traveled to Durham, Wisconsin knew what they needed to correct in order to beat Marquette.
Unfortunately, Marquette knew exactly what they needed to do to beat Wisconsin.
With the Golden Eagles running a fast-paced tempo that mirrored the Blue Devils, No.11 Marquette was able to get up-and-down the floor without much of a hassle and, in turn, forced the Badgers to play at their tempo.
The end result, Wisconsin played right into Marquette's hand, which was the main reason why the Eagles snapped Wisconsin's 28-game home-court winning streak with an 81-76 victory Saturday night.
The pace of play, led by Eagles junior point guard Dominic James, was torrent, which was evident by Marquette's stark advantage to get out and run. The defining moment of Marquette's get-up and run offense against Wisconsin was when Marquette's Jerel McNeal swiped the ball, got it to James, who dribbled nearly the full length of the court, drove into the lane and got the bucket and the foul due to the Badgers being out of position.
"They stayed with our plan, which was to make the game go," Crean said. "We wanted to push the ball, get wide and it wasn't as much as calling plays than having our concept right. Our guys did a different job of differentiating on the break or setting up our offense."
With Marquette (6-1) pushing tempo, Wisconsin (6-2) was unable to settle into its slow, methodical swing offense and tried to counter the Golden Eagles by driving down the floor and taking the quick perimeter. The end result was another poor perimeter shooting performance – Wisconsin shot 4-for-14 from three – and another slow offensive start.
"You're not going to beat Wisconsin by coming down the floor and getting into your box sets," Crean said. "They are too good and too big. When you go against a team like this, you're going to have to get away from what they want, which is dive into the line and take challenged jump shots. We didn't want to be dribbling the ball, we wanted to be driving the ball."
Despite being forced to play the up-tempo game, Wisconsin, down just two at halftime, was able to fight back into the game and, with the boisterous crowd support behind them, seemed to be ready to build on a four-point lead with a touch over 14 minutes to go.
But from that point on, Wisconsin couldn't control the basketball. The Badgers succumbed to 10 second-half turnovers, making it nearly impossible to battle a team with the offensive explosiveness of Marquette.
"Sure made it hard, especially that one stretch" Ryan said. "I can look at film and I'll have no idea why he made that pass. Not one guy, but several guys. You can't turn the ball over against good teams ... We threw the ball away too many times and it was hard to get that back."
Greg Stiemsma threw the ball away three times in the second half on seemingly routine passes to the guards and Trevon Hughes turned the ball over four times after being hassled by James.
"The pressure got to us and that starts with me," said Hughes. All of Wisconsin's turnovers were not careless, however, as Marquette was able to register 11 steals against the Badger offense, the most an opponent has stolen off UW.
"Our team is predicated on tough, hard-nosed defense," said McNeal, who led the team with five steals. "Get up on guys and pressure guys. My teammates did a great job tonight. I get a lot of talk all the time about steals, but the credit goes to my teammates because those are the guys who are making the plays to anticipate getting the steals."
But while the turnovers and steals were expected to a degree against Marquette, the tell-tale stat of the game was the bigger, taller Badgers were out-hustled and muscled by the Marquette interior, as the visitors out-rebounded the Badgers 41-34.
Coming into the game, Wisconsin had grabbed 93 more rebounds – including 53 more offensive rebounds – and had yet to be out-rebounded by an opponent this season.
That did not stop Marquette from grabbing five more offensive rebounds, leading to 26 second chance points and 44 points in the paint. Compared to Wisconsin's 30 paint points and 18 second-chance points, Crean said that stat was the key to wining tonight's game.
"We didn't feel like we could compete at the highest level with Wisconsin if we weren't doing a great job at rebounding," Crean said. "If we don't play that way, we're not going to beat the best teams and this is certainly one of the best teams we're going to see. I'm proud of the way that everybody came into the game contributing in this game and I'm happy for them."
"I have coached against so many teams that were bigger than teams that I've coached and still out-rebounded them," Ryan added. "You still have to get positions. You still have to go get the ball. Tonight wasn't one of those nights where we laid bodies on people. We weren't as fundamentally sound on our block-outs and it was pretty evident."
With each team having four games left until their respective conference seasons, Marquette reinforced to Wisconsin's 16 players that the importance of sticking to its offensive game plan, taking care of the basketball and to command the paint are going to be of the utmost importance.
If not, opposing teams have the blueprint on how to down the Badgers.
"We've got to get ready for January by playing these types of teams," Ryan said. "There are some things that we need to learn from in every game. We were not fundamentally sound and what Marquette did had a lot to do with that."